Justice must be served in Lipolelo murder case: Sibolla
THATO Sibolla, a key state witness in the June 2017 murder of Lipolelo Thabane, says she remains committed to ensuring that justice is served in the matter.
Not even a diplomatic posting as Lesotho’s consular in Pretoria will stop her from pursuing justice for herself and her slain friend, Ms Sibolla vowed this week.
She said this in response to last week’s allegations by former Law and Justice Minister, Nqosa Mahao, that she had only been offered the diplomatic job to stop her from spilling the beans about the Lipolelo murder.
Miss Sibolla was travelling in the same car with Lipolelo Thabane when the latter was gunned down in cold blood at Ha-’Masana, Maseru on the night of 14 June 2017.
Ms Sibolla sustained some injuries in the incident which occurred just two days before the inauguration of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane for his second stint as premier. The late Lipolelo and Mr Thabane had been involved in acrimonious divorce proceedings when she was murdered.
Mr Thabane’s current wife, ‘Maesaiah Thabane, was arrested in February 2020 and charged with the murder of Lipolelo. She was also charged with the attempted murder of Ms Sibolla who sustained some injuries in the shooting incident.
Prior to ‘Maesaiah’s arrest, Police Commissioner Holomo Molibeli, had sensationally alleged that Mr Thabane was also a key suspect, adding that his mobile phone had been used in the commission of the crime.
Despite being named as a suspect, Mr Thabane has still not been tried for the crime. He was taken to court in 2020. The former premier argued he could not be charged as a sitting prime minister and asked the magistrate to refer the matter to the Constitutional Court for his vindication. However, his Constitutional Court bid became academic after he was ousted as premier in May 2020 over the same allegations which his party, the ABC, said had tarnished its image. Since then, the DPP’s office has inexplicably failed to pursue the former premier.
Some police sources have alleged that Mr Thabane has not been arrested on the orders of the government which fears a backlash from his supporters in the ABC.
Police sources subsequently told this publication that the Majoro administration had given in to demands by Mr Thabane loyalists’ and ordered the DPP not to arrest the former premier.
And in remarks that seemingly lend credence to the claims by those sources, Prof Mahao now alleges that all the groundwork had been prepared for Mr Thabane’s arrest and trial, only for everything to be scuttled by his (Prof Mahao’s) dismissal from cabinet.
The former ABC deputy leader was fired on 22 April 2021. This after he had announced that he was dumping the ABC to form his own Basotho Action Party (BAP). At the time, he said he was jumping ship after discovering that Dr Majoro was plotting with Mr Thabane and ABC secretary general, Lebohang Hlaele, to oust him from the party.
In an explosive weekend interview with this publication last week, the former National University of Lesotho (NUL) Vice Chancellor, made new sensational allegations about the period leading up to his departure from the ABC and his dismissal from cabinet.
Prof Mahao said all the evidence had been collected and Mr Thabane had been set to be arrested and charged with Lipolelo’s murder. However, before that happened, unnamed people quickly orchestrated his dismissal from cabinet and thereafter pressured the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Hlalefang Motinyane, not to pursue the case, Prof Mahao claimed.
Prof Mahao also accused the government of “bribing” Ms Sibolla, with a diplomatic post to stop her from spilling the beans in the Lipolelo murder.
Ms Sibolla, the slain Lipolelo’s friend, is a key state witness in the murder case.
“There is that person who is the victim who has been bribed with an embassy post for her to stop pursuing those issues. I am referring to Thato Sibolla,” Prof Mahao said.
Back in May 2021, Ms Sibolla was appointed consular at the Lesotho High Commission in Pretoria.
Ms Sibolla had been living in exile in South Africa under Amnesty International protection after fleeing the country in 2019 when the police started to question ‘Maesaiah in connection with the Lipolelo murder.
However, Ms Sibolla has dismissed Prof Mahao’s claims that her diplomatic posting was meant to buy her silence.
In an interview this week, Ms Sibolla said she had requested the government to give her a diplomatic post after Amnesty International’s funding for her stay in South Africa ran out.
“I appreciate the fact that this story must remain alive because I want justice and closure,” Ms Sibolla told the Lesotho Times.
“But what surprises me is when Ntate Mahao says I was bribed with the post to silence me. That is not true and I trust that in the heart of his hearts, he knows that he is not telling the truth.
“I am saying this because I worked at the Ministry of Justice and he was my minister. I had gone into exile and I was repeatedly told that I would lose my job. He was the first person I called and I asked to be offered a job this side since I was already there (South Africa). The people who were sponsoring my stay had exhausted their sponsorship and I didn’t know how I would survive without an income. I have evidence to support my assertions,” Ms Sibolla said.
She shared with this publication a 7 July 2020 letter she wrote to Prof Mahao, requesting financial assistance to challenge the High Court’s initial February 2020 decision to grant ‘Maesaiah bail.
She also provided a screenshot of WhatsApp messages she claimed she wrote to Prof Mahao in October last year, alerting the latter that she had received a formal letter from Amnesty International ending its sponsorship of her stay in South Africa.
She said that Prof Mahao agreed to assist her in securing a diplomatic position and promised to present her request to cabinet for discussion and possible approval.
“Ntate Mahao said he would assist me. He said he would take my issue to the cabinet. After I was awarded the foreign post, Ntate Mahao signed the letters, meaning he was in full support of my coming here.
“That action alone gave me the impression that he understood my plight and that he had presented my issues to the cabinet. I even called his wife and thanked them.
“These are not political issues but issues that are very personal to me and it hurts that Ntate Mahao can politick about this issue and soil it with Lesotho’s dirty politics. I trusted him and talked to him about this issue. He is a person that I have always trusted and when I talked to him, I didn’t talk to him as a politician but as someone who fight for the truth and justice.
“He cannot say this now. I have nothing against his political engagements but he must not abuse my personal issues. He must not say that I was being silenced, not him of all people. If I was being silenced, then it would have to be him who was silencing me as he played a role in my getting this job. I therefore want to know why he was silencing me”.
She said she believed that Prof Mahao played a significant role in her appointment, especially as he had promised to assist her.
She said she was assisted by Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro; Foreign Affairs and International relations Minister Matšepo (Ramakoae), then foreign affairs principal secretary (PS) Retired Colonel Tanki Mothae and Prof Mahao.
She said she was certain that all four of them were not involved in Lipolelo’s murder, adding that there was no way she could have asked people involved in the murder for help.
She said her status as a state witness should not be used to deprive her of job opportunities.
“Does it mean that I should not be afforded opportunities that other civil servants enjoy just because I am a witness and victim of attempted murder?”
She said in any event she was bound by law to testify in the murder case and she could not pull out even if she wanted to.
“Ntate (Mahao) should not attempt to discredit me because that may affect my credibility as a witness,” Ms Sibolla said.